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When We Were Young Fest: The Reckoning | Zoey Preston

On January 21, 2021, presale for the emo rock festival of any former scene kid millennial’s dreams, When We Were Young Fest, opened. The tickets were $224.99 general admission ticket, nonrefundable, and it would be one day long and held at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds. The demand for tickets skyrocketed and the festival eventually added two more dates… with the same bands. A single-day festival sounded extremely questionable as over 60 acts will be splitting three stages in one 12-hour day. Many people, myself included, asked if that was even possible. The whole thing seemed like a logistical nightmare; shuffling between so many different bands over the course of one day was highly improbable. It’s difficult to imagine a festival packed full of so many acts in one day being able to run smoothly, or even run at all.

Considering the festival was run by LiveNation, the organization behind Astroworld, added an air of suspicion as well. Live Nation has a history of dangerous, even deadly concerts. They were at the center of a controversy surrounding their festival Astroworld in November 2021 when ten people were killed in the audience as result of poor crowd control, and the organization is faulted for continuing the concert even after the tragedy happened. The announcement for When We Were Young fell just two months later in January.

Videos circled on social media, pointing out the suspicious timing and logistical fallacies — was this all an attempt for LiveNation to make a cash-grab and save face? Some called it “Emo Fyre Fest,” and many were praying for its failure.

Since last January, everything has continued as normal; there were no changes or new announcements. Everything was looking promising, and almost a year later on October 22, 2022, the time finally came. The emos flocked to Vegas, prepared to relive their teenage fantasies, go on intense nostalgia trips, and see their favorite bands.

That is, until 10:00 AM, an hour before the venue was set to open, the festival for Saturday was canceled due to high winds.

To many fans and speculators, this seemed like a confirmation of their previous suspicions; while ticket holders were promised refunds, they still lost travel costs, hotel costs, and time taken off from work. Fans were rightfully angry: to cancel the festival barely an hour before it was set to open came as a massive disappointment, especially to those who traveled crazy distances to be there.

Still, LiveNation was in the right for canceling in this case. The winds were dangerously high — 30-40 mph with 60 mph gusts — and continuing the festival would’ve put artists and fans at risk. Stages can and have collapsed during storms, and canceling was the best decision for safety. It was a lose-lose situation, though, and LiveNation lost a lot of money while fans lost a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They canceled out of pure necessity, and many were glad they put safety first in this case, considering their history with Astroworld.

The next two days were set to move forward accordingly, and bands like Mom Jeans, We The Kings, State Champs, The All-American Rejects and more played local side shows for some consolation. The following days went surprisingly well though, and the headliners did not disappoint. Paramore played “All I Wanted” live for the first time ever, something they said they’d never do as it was out of Haley Williams’s range. My Chemical Romance came out in their classic black marching band suits and played a set of their greatest hits to appease the emos. Gerard Way donned facial makeup to make him look old, an obvious spoof on the “young” in When We Were Young.

So, did When We Were Young Fest go perfectly? No. But all things considered, LiveNation did a good job keeping all attendees, artists, and staff safe. The venue was praised for having access to water for guests and plenty of places for fans to sit and rest. And who wouldn’t want to see Paramore and MCR on the same night? For those who got to attend, the experience was excellent.

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